Elegant ideas for a meal worth celebrating
(Family Features) Delighting guests in unexpected ways is the hallmark of exceptional entertaining. With a little creative flair, you can elevate your menu to impress guests with every course.
A savory appetizer is set off beautifully by fresh, sweet grapes in this Grape and Goat Cheese Crostini. Festive, bright and refreshing, grapes are a versatile ingredient that take dishes to the next level, making them ideal for special occasions.
Not only are grapes a smart choice to keep on hand for healthy snacking and everyday eating, the vibrant colors and flavors bring extra life to a basic protein. For a unique twist on a main dish, try dressing up chicken with an elegant addition like fresh grapes, as in these Seared Chicken Breasts with Grapes and Artichokes.
The secret to a winning dessert is presentation, and the vibrant colors of red, green or black grapes lend just the right look to these tasty Mini Pavlovas with Lemon Cream and Grapes. What’s more, the juicy sweetness offsets the tartness of the lemon for an explosion of flavor perfection.
A Fresh Approach to Décor
Not only do fresh grapes’ lively flavors make for exceptional dishes, their vibrant colors can also enhance your table in other ways. Lend natural beauty to your decor while providing your loved ones with a healthy snack option with these creative ideas:
- Arrange grapes in bowls, on platters or draped from a cake plate for attractive and edible centerpieces.
- Dress snacking grapes up for the occasion by dipping clusters in liquid gelatin. Roll them in sugar, spices and finely chopped nuts to make a “frosted” finger food with a hint of crunch.
- Colorful grapes lend a pretty pop when used as a garnish to decorate serving plates.
Plan your next special occasion with the host of recipes at GrapesfromCalifornia.com.
Grape and Goat Cheese Crostini
- 2 cups quartered green, black or red California grapes (or a mixture)
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 16 baguette slices, thinly cut on diagonal
- 8 ounces fresh goat cheese
- In medium bowl, combine grapes, lemon juice, honey, thyme, salt, pepper and olive oil. Spread each baguette with goat cheese and top with grape mixture.
Nutritional information per serving: 200 calories; 9 g protein; 23 g carbohydrates; 8 g fat (36 percent calories from fat); 4.5 g saturated fat (20 percent calories from saturated fat); 15 mg cholesterol; 340 mg sodium; 1 g fiber.
Mini Pavlovas with Lemon Cream and Grapes
- 4 large egg whites
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/3 cup lemon curd
- 1 1/2 cups halved California grapes
- chopped smoked or tamari almonds (optional)
- Heat oven to 350° F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. With electric mixer on medium speed, in large bowl, beat egg whites and salt until firm peaks form. On low speed, add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until meringue forms stiff peaks. Whisk in cornstarch and vanilla.
- Divide meringue into six 4-inch circles on baking sheet. With large spoon, make indentations in middle of each. Place baking sheet in oven and lower temperature to 300° F. Bake 30 minutes then turn off oven and leave baking sheet inside another 30 minutes. To serve, whip cream to soft peaks and stir in lemon curd. Dollop onto meringues and top with grapes. Garnish with almonds, if desired.
Nutritional information per serving: 350 calories; 4 g protein; 58 g carbohydrates; 12 g fat (31 percent calories from fat); 8 g saturated fat (20 percent calories from saturated fat); 55 mg cholesterol; 90 mg sodium.
Seared Chicken Breasts with Grapes and Artichokes
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (8 ounces each), butterflied lengthwise into 4 cutlets
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 leek, white part only, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
- 1 1/2 cups quartered artichoke hearts, frozen, canned or jarred
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 teaspoons butter
- 3/4 cup green California grapes
- 3/4 cup red California grapes
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, to taste. In saute pan over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add chicken breasts and sear 3-4 minutes per side. Remove chicken and set aside.
- Add remaining olive oil to pan, along with garlic, leek and pinch of salt; cook on medium heat 2-3 minutes to soften leek. Stir in oregano, artichokes, wine, chicken stock, lemon juice, lemon zest and butter. Simmer 2-3 minutes then add chicken back to pan, basting each breast with sauce. Add grapes and simmer 3-5 minutes, or until grapes are just soft and chicken is cooked through.
- Stir in fresh parsley and serve.
Nutritional information per serving: 320 calories; 26 g protein; 23 g carbohydrates; 12 g fat (34 percent calories from fat); 3 g saturated fat (8 percent calories from saturated fat); 70 mg cholesterol; 390 mg sodium; 5 g fiber.
America’s Top Chefs Share Their Favorite Recipes
(Family Features) Want to add taste, color and crunch to salads any time of the year? Then sprinkle on pistachios. Chefs are going nutty over them, and for good reason. California grown, these pale green nuts have a subtle, delicate flavor that is wonderful in sweet as well as savory dishes or for eating out of hand. Traditionally used in rice dishes, stuffing, ice cream and pastries, pistachios are now a key ingredient in signature salads.
Pistachio Facts & Helpful Tips
The key to including nuts in the diet without adding extra calories is portion control. Use pistachios on salads, or in main dishes, to replace meat or poultry. California pistachios have versatility, texture and great taste. They also pack a powerful nutritional punch. A 1-ounce serving — 49 pistachios — contains more than 10 percent of the Daily Value for dietary fiber, vitamin B-6, thiamin, phosphorus and copper. One serving of pistachios has as much potassium as half a large banana. Pistachios contain mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat (11 of 13 fat grams), the types of fat recommended by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines For Americans. Pistachios also are naturally cholesterol free and trans fat free.
Other Pistachio Facts:
- A serving of pistachios has more fiber (2.9g) than 1 small tomato (1.1g) or 1 cup of raw spinach (.8g).
- A serving of pistachios provides almost 1 1/2 times the amount of thiamin as 1/2 cup serving of cooked, long grain, enriched white rice and 2 1/2 times the amount of thiamin in long grain, brown rice.
- The amount of vitamin B-6 in a 1-ounce serving of pistachios is comparable to that in a standard 3-ounce serving of roasted pork loin, 2 times that in a serving of peanut butter and 5 times that in a serving of black beans.
- Pistachios contain more phytosterols such as beta-sitosterol than any other commonly eaten nut, 61mg per serving or 279mg per 100g. Phytosterols may help lower cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. Preliminary research suggests phytosterols also may offer protection from certain types of cancer.
- The largest USDA study of food antioxidants reveals pistachios are one of the best sources of beta-carotene of all tree nuts and peanuts. Pistachios also provide the most lutein and zeaxanthin of all tree nuts. Antioxidants are compounds in foods that may help fight cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and help maintain healthy arteries.
To Make Pistachio Oil:
Toast 1 cup pistachio kernels. When cool, finely grind in food processor. In a saucepan, warm 1 1/2 cups olive oil and ground pistachios and stir until blended. Transfer to a jar and let stand overnight at room temperature. Strain. Substitute in place of olive oil to add flavor to any recipe.
Harvest Salad with Caramelized California Pistachios and Green Apples
Chef Andrew Carmellini of A Voce Restaurant in New York celebrates the bounty of the harvest with this delicious — yet simple — salad featuring crisp green apples and caramelized California pistachios.
- 4 cups arugula, picked and washed
- 2 cups watercress, picked and washed
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced in half lengthwise then thinly sliced
- 1 cored green apple, thinly sliced
- 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 4 leaves basil, washed and coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons white raisins, soaked in warm water and drained
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 whole lemons, zested then juiced
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup California pistachios, caramelized
- Combine all ingredients except cheese and breadcrumbs in mixing bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Divide into 6 salad bowls; top with cheese, breadcrumbs and caramelized pistachios (see sidebar for caramelizing). Serve immediately. Serves 6.
Nutritional Analysis (Amount per Serving): Calories 250, Total Fat 16g, Saturated Fat 2.5g, Monounsaturated Fat 10g, Cholesterol less than 5mg, Sodium 610mg, Potassium 530mg, Carbohydrate 27g, Dietary Fiber 5g, Protein 6g
Goat Cheese, Beet Roots and California Pistachio Salad
Executive Chef Pascal LeSeac’h of Pastis, one of New York City’s hottest restaurants, loves serving this simple beet salad featuring California pistachios.
- 5 medium size beet roots
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup California pistachios, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch flat parsley (1⁄4 cup chopped)
- 1 log (6 ounces) Montrachet goat cheese
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
- 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Preheat oven: 375°F.
- Clean beet roots with cold water, dry with paper towel, coat with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt. Wrap beets in aluminum foil and place in oven 1 1/2 hours. Check doneness by poking with small knife. Remove and peel beets and slice 1/2-inch thick. Reserve and cool in refrigerator. While beets are cooling, toast pistachios, let cool, then chop.
- Clean and dry parsley, then chop with large chef knife. Slice goat cheese 1/2-inch thick.
- To Serve: Alternate slices of beets and goat cheese on salad plate. Season with salt and white pepper. Add vinegar and remaining olive oil. Garnish with pistachios and chopped parsley. Serves 2.
Nutritional Analysis (Amount per Serving): Calories 380, Total Fat 33g, Saturated Fat 9g, Monounsaturated Fat 19g, Cholesterol 20mg, Sodium 310mg, Potassium 450mg, Carbohydrate 13g, Dietary Fiber 4g, Protein 11g
Spicy Pear and Endive Salad with California Pistachios
Nationally-renowned celebrity chefs and “Too Hot Tamales” Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger offer this scrumptious salad featuring California pistachios from their award-winning Border Grill and Ciudad restaurants.
- 1/2 cup California pistachios, raw and shelled
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 Comice or D’anjou pears, quartered, cored, and sliced into 1/2-inch wedges
- 4 heads Belgian endive, cored and sliced lengthwise into strips
- 1/2 to 3⁄4 cup Cabrales blue cheese, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons pickled jalapeños, sliced
- 1/4 cup Honey Chipotle Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- In small frying pan, combine pistachios, salt, pepper and sugar. Sauté over low to medium heat, stirring and shaking frequently until pistachios are toasted and sugar caramelizes and coats pistachios. Transfer pistachios to non-stick or parchment-lined cookie sheet and allow to cool. In large bowl, combine pears, endive, blue cheese, jalapeños and vinaigrette.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to 4 chilled salad plates and sprinkle with pistachios. Serves 4.
Honey Chipotle Vinaigrette
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 dry chipotle, stemmed and seeded
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey, warm
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Combine vinegar and chipotle in small saucepan and bring to boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth and oil is emulsified. Adjust seasonings to taste. Makes 1 cup.
Nutritional Analysis (Amount per Serving): Calories 310, Total Fat 20g, Saturated Fat 5g, Monounsaturated Fat 10g, Cholesterol 15mg, Sodium 640mg, Potassium 500mg, Carbohydrate 30g, Dietary Fiber 6g, Protein 8g
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup California pistachio kernels
- In a medium saucepan, heat sugar with water, salt and cayenne pepper over a high flame. Cook until mixture is soft and bubbling. Add pistachios and stir 2 to 4 minutes, until caramelized (pistachios may clump together). Remove pistachios from pan and lay on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. When pistachios are completely cool, break apart and reserve.
Source: California Pistachio Commission
Mini Three-Cheese Balls
Yields 24 to 30 balls
- 1 4-ounce log fresh goat cheese
- 6 ounces crumbled blue cheese
- 2 cups coarsely grated Jarlsberg cheese
- 2 tablespoons grated onion
- 1/4 cup non fat plain yogurt
- 1/4 cup finely diced fresh chives, plus extra for garnish
- Dash hot sauce (optional)
- 1 cup slivered almonds or chopped pecans
- In a food processor, process cheeses with onion, yogurt and chives until well blended. If you'd like, add a dash of hot sauce.
- Shape into mini balls and roll in slivered almonds or chopped pecans and chives, or spread in serving dish and top with nuts/chives.
- Chill several hours or until ready to serve. Serve with flat breads, fresh vegetables, etc.
Tip: You can also mix nuts into cheese mixture and use to stuff cherry tomatoes and peppadews, sweet peppers or top cucumber rounds, mini party breads, etc. Chill several hours or until ready to serve.